The Aftermath of World War II

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How did US popular culture change in the post–World War II years?

Post–World War II American popular culture focused on teenagers, television, and increased leisure time.

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Several major factors contributed to cultural change in the United States after World War II, but one of the greatest was a trend known as consumerism. Once the war was over, revved-up US industry turned from creating weapons and other materials for the war effort to automobiles, appliances, and other...

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Several major factors contributed to cultural change in the United States after World War II, but one of the greatest was a trend known as consumerism. Once the war was over, revved-up US industry turned from creating weapons and other materials for the war effort to automobiles, appliances, and other products that Americans could purchase and own. Soldiers came back from the war to work and enjoy what they perceived as a coming time of peace and prosperity. Suburbs sprang up as veterans bought houses with the help of low-cost mortgages due to the G.I. Bill. From 1945 into the 1960s was what became known as the "baby boom," during which record numbers of babies were born.

These postwar families wanted not only basic necessities, but also luxury items. Besides their homes, mainly in the new suburbs, they bought cars, clothes, furniture, televisions, and other items. Americans were fed up with wartime rationing and desired abundance.

All was not idyllic in this postwar world, however, for women. Women had entered the workforce as never before during the war, but afterwards popular pressure urged them to leave work and become faithful wives and mothers. This eventually gave rise to a budding feminist movement that reached its stride in the 1960s, as women protested their second-class status.

Another group that did not benefit from the postwar consumer culture was African Americans. Many had fought overseas or worked hard at home for the war effort. However, when the war was over, they faced the same discrimination that they had before. This gave rise in the 1950s to the civil rights movement.

Postwar animosity between the United States and the Soviet Union initiated a conflict that became known as the Cold War. This affected every aspect of US culture as Americans became paranoid that communists were infiltrating their society.

Televisions became ubiquitous in American homes after the war. Families represented in popular series were generally conservative, and children were generally respectful of their parents. Westerns, spy films, and science fiction became popular on TV and in films. Among the popular shows for young kids were The Mickey Mouse Club and Captain Kangaroo.

As the kids known as Baby Boomers began to grow up, they eventually rebelled against the conservatism of their parents, giving rise to new forms of music, such as rock and roll. America would never be the same again.

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The economic prosperity in the wake of World War II created massive changes in American popular culture.

Firstly, there was the emergence of what people now call teenage culture. Teens having their own unique subcultures became more prominent around the 1950s, since many of them came to have more leisure time. Hollywood began designing and marketing movies to this demographic (think of the Elvis Presley movies or the teen beach comedies), and music like rock and roll often appealed to adolescent tastes. These changes sometimes frightened older generations, who feared the rise of juvenile delinquency.

Secondly, television became a major player in pop culture during the 1950s and 1960s. While the radio had reigned supreme for home entertainment between the 1920s and 1940s, television became a formidable force later on, allowing people access to a variety of programming. Television even had an effect on movie ticket sales, and Hollywood studios often tried making movies with a massive spectacle that could not be replicated on the small, monochrome TV screen in order to entice audiences back to the theater. These usually took the form of historical and biblical epics like Ben-Hur.

Lastly, travel became much easier than ever before. Increased economic prosperity meant more people could afford to vacation. Modernized roads and the establishments of motels across the country made travel much less of a hassle.

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Culture became much more dependent on mass media after World War II. The television programs were much more powerful than radio. There was also a large impact from movies and music. The war was over, and entertainment was very important.
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The post war era was the popularization of Rhythm and Blues music which led to Rock and Roll music. This period also saw the world of professional sports expand from the east coast to the west. Movies and movie stars became more easily accessible with the inventions of television.

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As the economy grew, so did the demand for consumer goods.  Life got easier with advancements in modern conveniences and automated machinery.  Installment plans enabled people to get these appliances and conveniences (electric washers and dryers, televisions, etc.) into their homes like never before.  Transportation and communication got cheaper and more efficient, allowing more travel than ever before--as well as an increase in the need for gasoline and the advent of motels (motor hotels) for those on the road.  Having free time to spend on a variety of pursuits was the major cause of all the pop culture elements of the late '40s and especially the '50s.

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The culture changed with economic prosperity, just as it did in the 1920s.  With leisure time, modern conveniences, material goods, their own homes and decent wages, people were more able to concentrate on art, music, sports, vacations and materialism, which has been the outline of our culture since that time.

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There were many changes in popular culture following WWII.  First, television began to become more widespread throughout the United States. This led to huge changes in pop culture with the emergence of TV stars such as Milton Berle, Lucille Ball, and James Arness, along with the creation of popular TV shows such as the Tonight Show.  Another change occurred when professional sports moved to the west coast and became integrated creating such stars as LA Dodger Jackie Robinson.  These are just some of the changes that occurred after WWII that changed pop culture in the U.S.

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When you ask how it changed in the post-WWII years, how long are you talking about?  How far does "post-WWII" extend?  I'm going to answer this as if it only extends into the mid 1950s.

To me, the biggest change in popular culture during that time was the rise of a teen culture.  During this time, teens came to have more leisure time and more disposable income than had ever been the case before.  This helped lead to the growth of such things as rock and roll music.

So I would say that a major change in popular culture was a move towards music and other things that were popular with teens.

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